Kislev 7, 5768
December 4, 2008
Dear Friends and Family,
It started one Wednesday when David was in America. First, the internet went down. Ok, it happens. Usually we are back online in 15 to 20 minutes. So I kept checking. Too soon, I began to feel a little disconnected. As the hours went by and I kept trying to log on, I began to feel quite out of touch. So I decided to call someone: Netvision, our internet provider. I am just familiar enough with Hebrew to figure out how to get to technical support. First question to the voice on the other end: “Do you speak English?” “Of course,” was his reply. I told him we were off line. He took me through all the unplugging and replugging of the modem, the Airport, etc. that I had already performed several times myself, of course. No connection. He said he would have to have a technician call me. We arranged a time frame for late that night, and I waited.
The time for my phone date with the Netvision technician came and went. So I called them. When someone answered, I asked “Do you speak English?” “Of course,” was the reply. I told him what was going on and that no one called me yet. He said, “I need to get someone speaking English.” Then I was disconnected. It was late, I went to sleep and hoped for the best tomorrow.
Thursday morning, still offline. When I called this time, they said it was not a problem on our line, but a Netvision problem and we would be up and running later that day. Good. I had a busy day until late that night, so I would not really miss it.
I was spending that week as a madricha (volunteer who helps a guide), with an Aish HaTorah Gem trip to Israel http://www.aish.com/gem/. Eleven incredible women ages 33-88 toured and learned here for ten days and I got to spend every wonderful, memorable, inspiring, and exhausting moment with them. I was all over the city gathering food and running errands, shepherding stragglers and checking in with the rest of the group. My phone, as you can imagine was vital to the operation. And this was the day, after 4 years of almost perfectly reliable service, that it decided to completely die. No, it was not the battery. It was the whole thing. My phone numbers-gone. My access to the group-gone. My frustration-not gone.
It had been a great phone, that Blackberry. Sure, it was a bit complicated and certainly outdated, but it did everything, and much more than, I wanted. Without it, I was really disconnected. So I hurried to town to pick up a simple little phone. And there it was The Simple Phone. Little, too. The phone I’d wanted before inheriting the Blackberry. The phone of my dreams….Slip in the SIM card and-except for losing all those phone numbers-back in the business (of being a madricha).
So I gave the very pregnant saleswoman with about 17 earrings in one ear the 300 NIS (today that’s $75.00) thank you very much-and b’sha tova! She gave me a big smile and rubbed her tummy. Connected.
When I got home very late that night, I tried to check my email…but to no avail. We were still offline. Knowing that it was an attempt in vain, I called Netvision anyway. “Do you speak English?” “Of course,” I repeated the story and he said, “I will get someone speaking English.” This time I was not disconnected. The technician spoke perfect English accented with that delightfully, sweet Israeli accent I love. He was kind, too, when he repeated what I knew, that it was a Netvision problem, “we are working on it now and you will have service by the morning.” Flavoring my English with my newly acquired Israeli attitude, I asked, “What time this morning? The morning is just a few minutes away.” He was amused, but noncommittal. I was still offline, but we connected.
Friday morning, I woke and checked my email. 52 messages!!! I’d have to read them later. I was scheduled to escort our Gem Ladies on their Old City program. By noon-ish we were done, so I came home to clean and rest up for Shabbos. I was accompanying several ladies to host families for dinner & lunch, so I did not have to prepare meals, but I had Shabbos guests for sleeping. I made the beds, dusted and “sponge-ahhd” (Israeli mopping) and sat down to read all those emails.
Before I knew it, it was 3 pm, almost time for candles. I dressed and went down the list of things to do (lights, turn off dud (hot water heater), call David, parents and daughters-great the internet phone was working). As I set the Shabbos lock on the gate outside, I noticed our mezuzah, which has been lodged into a crevice in the stone wall ever since we have been here---was gone. I looked all around but it was mysteriously nowhere to be found. We have a lot less doors here than in America, which means a few extra scrolls were tucked away, so I quickly found one, and looked up the bracha. As I said it and placed a new scroll in the doorpost, I heard my neighbor in the stairwell say “amen!” Yea!, connected again.
My guests arrived with cookies and smiles. As we chatted in the kitchen before we lit candles, I washed a few straggling glasses and noticed a putrid but familiar smell. Then I heard the drain “gurgle.” The horrible sound that means: the sewer is clogged, again. Oh no… This time it was our courtyard neighbor who heard me. I was in distress. He was leaving for his minyan, but told his wife that first, he would go to the Muslim Quarter to find an Arab plumber he knows. It was time to light, and meet up with the Gem Group. I had to leave the gate open for the plumber and go. Had to.
The Arab never came and all Shabbos I tried not to worry about an overflow. I placed towels all around so we hopefully could contain a disaster, and we kept water use to a bare minimum. B”H, we were saved and Sunday morning the son of the Rova plumber showed up. He’s a great kid, knows what he is doing and made jokes about the nature of his work. He can certainly joke. Plumbers here get paid more than many doctors and I wonder if maybe they are even more appreciated. Within 15 minutes and 230 NIS ($58) later, we were unclogged.
Internet, phone, mezuzah and sewer. All conduits. Why, within three days, did these four things disconnect, disappear and clog up?
Then, I realized that it really wasn’t the things—the true conduits were open, they were the people Hashem brought to me. The essential Jewish kindness of the Netvision technicians came through over the phone line, no matter how much English they thought they understood. They really just wanted to help. The multi-pierced woman at the phone store was genuinely happy to place exactly what I was looking for in my hands. And she knew I was sincere about my little bracha to her. Her child is also my child, just like when I hung the mezuzah. My mitzvah was also my neighbor’s. And when the sewer scare began, my other neighbor did not think twice, of course he was going to help me, despite the inconvenience. I could not help but be struck by the sight of the darling plumber’s son, so refined as he went about his grubby work. Only a Jew could make this job seem noble.
They are all around, every day, ready for connection. On the bus, in the makolet (little groceries that are everywhere), the waitress, the pharmacist, and the beggar who looks up and smiles when I drop a coin in her plastic cup. Only here can I get a heartfelt bracha for a shekel. There it is: "Kol Yisrael arevim zeh le zeh,," another connection.
All of those disconnects seemed like frustrating inconveniences that I had to deal with alone. It was really the opposite. Hashem was leading me to connect with others. I had to talk to Jews at Netvision and ask friends if I could come and check my email. I had to ask people about where to buy a phone, then share a bus ride to the store and share excitement with the mom to be. When the plumber’s father came to check the work, I got to tell a dad what a great kid he has-and because we are all connected, he was my kid, too.
It’s the same with these letters that I write to you. I do it so I can feel connected to you, and you to Eretz Yisrael--until you all come home, may it be very soon.
Renee & David
Kislev 7, 5768